The department-store chain has been struggling since it lost its CEO in May.

(Bloomberg)—J.C. Penney Co.’s sales via its website were down slightly for the period year over year, according to investor relations executive Trent Kruse. Exact figures were not disclosed.

The struggling department-store chain, which has been without a CEO since May, also posted a wider-than-expected loss for the quarter ended Aug. 4 and disappointing same-store sales, a closely-watched measure for retailers.

The dip in e-commerce was intentional, according to chief information and digital officer Terace Risch. The retailer pulled back on online sales and is adjusting its digital experience to better meet customer expectations, though no steps were mentioned on the call.

“We’re still seeing over 80% of all dot-com orders touching a physical store in some way,” Kruse said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. That includes products shipped from store inventory and online orders picked up in stores.


The dismal sets of results will increase the urgency to find a new leader who can tackle a turnaround. The price cutting was drastic last quarter, as the retailer offered discounts on more than the usual seasonal products or unwanted fashion items. By reducing the inventory, however, J.C. Penney may make itself more attractive for an incoming CEO looking for a fresh start.

“We will continue to take actions to right-size our inventory, better curate our assortment and most importantly, provide a solid foundation that we can continue to build upon as we move forward,” chief financial officer Jeffrey Davis said in a statement.

J.C. Penney, No. 31 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500, is looking to replace Marvin Ellison, who, in a surprise move, left this year to run home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. (No. 21). He had taken initiatives to revive growth by improving online shopping, signing celebrities up for brand partnerships and adding big-ticket items. It helped, but the clothing business continued to struggle, and, like his predecessors, Ellison had to resort to discounting prices to get rid of inventory.

“Their new inventory model is ‘buy and chase,’ it will require any excess inventory will be marked down and cleared. It will pressure margins,” said Poonam Goyal, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Until they right-size inventory, it will hard to tell if the new inventory model is actually going to work.”


Chairman Ronald W. Tysoe gave an update on the CEO search in the earnings statement.

“The process is going well and the Board has met with highly qualified candidates who have expressed a strong desire to become the next leader of J.C. Penney,” Tysoe said. “The hiring of a new CEO is the top priority of the board of directors.”

In the fiscal second quarter, J.C. Penny posted a 0.3% gain in same-store sales, a key measure for retailers that focuses on established locations. While that was the fourth consecutive quarter of growth, it came in lower than the 1% rise anticipated by analysts.


The quarterly loss was 32 cents, the retailer said. For the full year, the company now expects a loss ranging from 80 cents to 1 cent, excluding some items. Analysts had projected a profit of 4 cents. J.C. Penney’s previous guidance was for a loss of 7 cents to a profit of 13 cents.